Interrailing is a great and fun way to get around Europe allowing you to easily explore many cities by train. Here are my top Interrailing tips for the perfect trip.
1. Plan your route, but be prepared to change it!
It’s good to have a clear idea of the cities you want to visit and roughly in what order so you don’t end up having to loop back on yourself (some more remote cities are not as well connected). When you receive your Interrail pack there will be a rail map included, it may help to mark the cities you want to visit and then a logical route will become easier to plan. As with everything in life, your route might not always go to plan so be ready to adapt your route accordingly. We pre-booked our flights in and out of Europe so we had a specific destination we had to end up in!
2. Especially during peak seasons the trains can get fully booked, make sure you make a reservation a few days before you want to move on to ensure you can get a seat at least.
As a rule of thumb I would usually book my next journey when I arrived in a city. This means I don’t have to plan additional time at the station as some of the bookings offices can get very busy. It also pays to be aware of any festivals or major events taking place and book even further in advance if these coincide with your visit – we did have one slight mishap when we underestimated the popularity of Oktoberfest and had to take an alternative route due to fully booked trains (however the route through the Italian countryside in the day was in itself spectacular and picturesque).
3. Carefully consider which Interrail pass will best suit your needs.
Interrail offer various different types of pass depending on the type of travelling you wish to do. They do offer single country passes but for a true Interrail experience I would recommend purchasing a global pass. The global passes are offered with two options – either travelling on a set number of days within a month or unlimited travel within a set number of days. For total freedom the latter is my preferred choice, although if you are planning on staying a few days in each place it’s worth investigating if a cheaper pass might suit your needs better.
4. Consider getting out of the main cities for a day trip using your Interrail pass.
If you have a global pass with unlimited travel you should look into using your Interrail pass on local trains to get out of the main tourist cities. If you are staying in Florence during your travels you shouldn’t miss out on catching the train to Pisa to see the iconic leaning tower or to Cinque Terre to visit the quaint and colourful villages perched on the cliffside.
5. Brave an overnight journey at least once on your travels.
There are supplementary costs to your Interrail pass to book an overnight train and these vary dependent on the type of seating and the area of Europe you are travelling within, however it is something you have to experience at least once in your lifetime. A true experience is sleeping on a couchette although I’m not sure quite how much sleep you’ll get if you’re a light sleeper like myself. The best overnight journey in terms of comfort I experienced was in-between Budapest and Bucharest where I paid for a two bed sleeper and indeed slept for most of the journey. The trains in Eastern Europe are far more authentic (don’t expect too much from the dining car!) and you can get a private sleeper for less than the price of a hotel room.
6. Pack as lightly as possible but always remember to pack facewipes and dry shampoo for freshening up after long journeys. A good book may also help pass the time when you aren’t getting acquainted with your fellow passengers.
Picking what luggage to take interrailing is a tricky one, you need to take into consideration storing your luggage on the train, being able to get access to it easily for the bits you need and carrying/dragging your luggage to and from the station. As always packing light is a bonus (although I’m always guilty of not abiding by this one), but do take heed of the weather differences across Europe – during our trip we had bitter cold weather in some areas and sunbathing temperatures in others. Consider taking an additional day bag that you can leave at the station, alongside your main bag, packed with items for overnight journeys: comfy clothes, a book to read to pass the time, headphones to block out any unnecessary noise, toilet paper (on longer journeys they tend to run out), chargers for your electronics and a morning kit including face wipes and dry shampoo to freshen up.
7. Keep your Interrail ticket safe with you at all times and within a waterproof wallet.
Your Interrail ticket comes in the form of a paper sheet where you fill out details of the journeys you have undertaken – this makes for a great souvenir of your adventures around Europe but is however easily damaged. Your Interrail pack comes with a waterproof wallet which I strongly recommend using – I also stored my identification in here as outside of the Schengen area you will be asked to show your passport at borders.
8. Make sure you know where your train leaves from well ahead of time.
Don’t leave it until the last minute to find your train – some of the international stations are very large and even more confusing to navigate when all the signs are in a foreign language! Save yourself plenty of time to get to the station, believe me when I say the stress of rushing for the last train out in an evening isn’t worth it it isn’t! As a bonus any spare time you do have you can use doing last minute shopping.
9. Download the Interrail app.
Interrail have created a great app that show timetables for all stations allowing you to plan your next route (be aware that it does not account for delays). There are also city maps of major European cities, all available offline for times you do not have an internet connection. The time we got stuck in Munich, this app was a lifesaver!
10. Some train journeys are worth doing during the daytime for the views.
With a 9-5 job, and therefore a distinct lack of annual leave I like to maximise my time when travelling and would rather travel overnight – the exception to this is when interrailing. Some of the train journeys are incredibly picturesque and not worth sleeping through! Interrail have compiled a list of the top scenic routes within Europe to give you inspiration.
Find Out More…
Interrail – http://www.interrail.eu/en
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